Senegal police arrest Chad former leader Hissene Habre

Former Chad President Hissene Habre Former Chadian President Hissene Habre has lived in Senegal for more than two decades

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Police in Senegal have arrested Chad's former leader Hissene Habre, who is wanted for alleged atrocities during his eight-year rule.

Mr Habre's lawyer El Hadji Diouf said he was taken from his home in Dakar by paramilitary police to an unknown location on Sunday.

The 70 year old has been under house arrest since 2005 in Senegal, where he fled after being deposed in 1990.

He denies killing and torturing tens of thousands of his opponents.

Last year the UN's International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Senegal to put him on trial or extradite him to face justice overseas.

His arrest comes days after US President Barack Obama praised the efforts of Senegal's current President Macky Sall to bring him to trial at the start of his Africa tour.

Historic precedent

Human rights group have been pushing Senegal to put Mr Habre on trial for decades.

Who is Hissene Habre?

  • Born in 1942 to ethnic Toubou herders in northern Chad
  • Given scholarship to study political science in France
  • First came to the world's attention in 1974 when his FAN rebels captured three European hostages to ransom for money and arms
  • Seized power in 1982, allegedly with the help of the CIA; ousted by current President Idriss Deby in 1990
  • Accused of systematically persecuting groups he distrusted
  • A former swimming pool was used as an underground prison where survivors say they were subjected to electric shocks, near-asphyxia and "supplice des baguettes", when their heads were squeezed between sticks

Senegalese MPs passed a law in December allowing a special African Union tribunal to be created in the country to try the former leader, who has been dubbed "Africa's Pinochet".

The charges against him date from 1982, when Mr Habre came to power in a coup, until 1990, the year he was ousted.

Mr Habre was first indicted in Senegal in 2000 - but the country's courts ruled at the time that he could not be tried there.

His alleged victims then filed complaints under Belgium's universal jurisdiction law, which allows the country's judges to prosecute human rights offences committed anywhere in the world.

He was charged by Belgium with crimes against humanity and torture in 2005, but Senegal has refused four extradition requests.

Plans in 2011 to repatriate Mr Habre to Chad, where a court in 2008 sentenced him to death in absentia for planning to overthrow the government, were stopped following a plea from the UN.

A trial in Senegal would set a historic precedent as until now African leaders accused of atrocities have only been tried in international courts.

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